Child marriage undermines global development efforts
In today’s world one third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18. 1 in 9 of these are married before the age of 15. If present trends continue, over the next decade, 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday. 150 million girls! Early pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Child marriage undermines global development efforts which are focused on creating more educated, healthier and economically stable populations. Girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children. More often than not, child brides are pulled out of school, depriving them of an education and meaningful work. Though child marriage is entrenched in tradition and culture, change is possible. Very often, girls and their parents want to delay marriage but lack options. WE see options!
My name is Caroline Kimeu and this is MY story
I am twenty two years old, my mother is the lovely Florence Kimeu of Makueni County-Kenya. I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers; I am the second to last born, all of us born out of wedlock. I came to know I was born out of wedlock because when I was five years old the man I called my father told me and my siblings, he also told us he was not our biological father. He told us every time he came home in a drunken fury. Although we were stigmatized by our circumstances my mother was steadfast in her efforts to provide for all of us. We were sometimes cold, and often scared, but thanks to my mother’s courage we stayed together, we were never hungry, and there was always hope born of courage and mercy!
Despite the difficulties at home my siblings and I found refuge and peace in our school. Our studies provided a challenge, but also an opportunity for success. I completed my primary school in 2008 when I was 15. I worked hard and with God’s guidance I passed with a B+ grade and with this began my dream to become a doctor! But after primary no one came to take me to a secondary school and my mum was not in a position to do it either. I was disappointed; I knew I wanted to continue my education because I could see my older sisters; they had married very young because we could not afford to pay school fees. I knew their lives were not what I wanted for myself; they seemed sad and disappointed. I knew I HAD to continue my education to avoid that life.
I knew I did not want the life of my sisters, I could see only one option – to look for a job in Nairobi, a place I had NEVER been to before! I left my village with a distant relative and through her found a job working as a house girl. My dream quickly became a nightmare. I was only fifteen, I had no experience and even less knew how to live with a family not my own, I spent most of my time crying to myself. My tears were from sadness, but could easily have also fallen from exhaustion every day from sunrise to sunset listening to the relentless complaints of my bosses. And yet I dared to hope to return to school.
Work as a house girl is hard, but at a minimum I wanted to support my mum and my small sister back in the countryside. I worked for Ksh.2000 in the same unpleasant environment for three years. But on the 5th of December 2011 I could tolerate no more and without a word went back to my mother. On reaching home I found my cousins who were there for the December holiday, I had not seen them for the entire three years I had been in Nairobi. They were very saddened to find that I had not joined high school. And yet I dared to hope to return to school.
When I told my cousins I had not joined a high school they told me about St. Aloysius Gonzaga an idea I embraced quickly as it felt like God was opening a new door for me! We arranged to visit the school in January 2012 and on the spot I completed the enrollment form, underwent and passed all the interviews. I was able to join the program on the 29th of January 2012. Since then my dream to be in the field of medicine was revived and I got a new home to live happily. It has not been easy, but I have persevered living first with an aunt, and then with my sister. I would not give up – statistics will tell us that educated women are at the core of a successful community. I now knew I could yet do better!
Today I live happily with my best friend Juliet Moraa. She and her mother showed me their mercy when they took me in as part of their family. Juliet and I have completed high school and are looking forward to joining the University of Nairobi in September of 2016. My journey has also been one of struggle, mercy shown, mercy given, and courage gained. Today I am doing my community service as a teacher! Imagine that – I am not only educated I am educating!
Through the mercy of others I am now empowered to show mercy, to be merciful, to live MY life and decide when or if I want to be a bride.